What is ChowNow? How the food-ordering service differs from its competition

  • ChowNow is a food-ordering app and subscription service for restaurants that doesn’t receive a commission on orders like other popular delivery apps.
  • Restaurants that pay for the monthly service get the benefits of being on a delivery app, plus a dedicated marketing team to set up an app and website, among other features.
  • For customers, the ChowNow app is similar to ordering apps from services like UberEats or GrubHub.
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Food delivery apps like Uber Eats and DoorDash seem nearly ubiquitous in the restaurant industry — if you’re running a restaurant and you want people in the area to know about you, getting on at least one of these apps is essential for your exposure.

These apps, however, take a cut of what restaurants earn — even if you order pickup and not delivery. Most of them take 20% to 40% of each order, which is, in many cases, nearly the entire profit margin on the food they’re selling.

The people behind ChowNow saw this trend and worried that it would take down the small, local restaurant as we know it, and decided to do something about it. ChowNow is a service that sets up food delivery for restaurants on its own app (available on Android and iOS), like other food delivery service apps. However, the company doesn’t charge a percentage for it.

What to know about ChowNow

Unlike UberEats or DoorDash, ChowNow doesn’t stop after putting a restaurant on its app. It does more — it helps make it easy for a restaurant to have its own ordering app, and an easy-to-use order function on its website.

Instead of taking a percentage of each order, ChowNow structured its service as a paid monthly subscription — the base cost is $149 a month, with a one-time $399 setup fee per location, but these prices go down when a business signs a contract for a longer period. Its annual plan is $119 a month with a $199 initial setup fee, and the two-year annual plan is $99 a month, with the same discounted setup fee.

On top of helping a restaurant set up its own ordering app and website, ChowNow also offers a wide range of other services to customers, including comprehensive training, an iPad for order consolidation, an ongoing marketing strategy, and 24/7 support.

What is Chownow 1

A comprehensive overview of all the services that come with a ChowNow plan.
Melanie Weir/Business Insider

One thing to note about ChowNow is that it is not actually a delivery service. ChowNow does not employ its own delivery drivers — it is, more or less, a marketing team and middle man. Instead, the company gives restaurants the option to hire and use their own delivery drivers for orders that go through the site. 

If restaurants don’t want to hire delivery drivers, though, they’re not out of luck — ChowNow has partnerships with some of the delivery services they are competing with, including Postmates, DoorDash, UberEats, in different areas. ChowNow isn’t trying to drive these companies out of business — just reimagine how they function so the process works for everyone.

ChowNow can help customers, too

As a customer, using ChowNow doesn’t have to be that different than using other ordering apps. It works more or less the same, but when you use it instead of one of the other apps, you’re doing your part to help local restaurants keep more of what they earn.

When you download the ChowNow app, it looks a lot like any other ordering app you may be familiar with. You enter your location, and it shows you a list of available restaurants in your area, and you can tap on them to see their menu. From there, you just add items to your cart, check out, and wait. 

What is ChowNow 2

Despite ChowNow fees being different from other ordering apps, its interface is similar to the apps from other food-ordering services.
Melanie Weir/Business Insider

If that’s all you use ChowNow for, then you’re still helping your local small businesses — plus, you might be helping yourself out, too. Because of the high commissions on apps like GrubHub and Postmates, many restaurants increase their prices on the app in order to compensate for what would otherwise be a net loss. So when you use an app that charges restaurants a fee, you could end up paying more for your food than you need to. 

However, customers can also look at the ChowNow app as a map to new restaurants — ideally, they would try a restaurant once, and, if they decide they really like it, simply go and download that restaurant’s app, rather than adding it to a list of favorites. This puts customers in a position to get bonuses and deals that the company may be offering.

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